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Antivirus groups fight over Crossover sharing
Robert Lemos, SecurityFocus 2006-03-03

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Some security experts and antivirus companies have started the application process to join MARA, according to a statement on the group's Web site. The group has also said it remains open to amending its contract, if antivirus companies propose reasonable terms.

However, other antivirus companies have taken a staunch position against joining the organization.

"We work with people on a trust basis, people who have been in the industry and are known to us," said Joe Telafici, director of operations for the antivirus emergency response team (AVERT) at security firm McAfee. "We simply don't know any of these guys. Right now we have to say, 'Give (the virus) to people who are going to protect people from it.'"

Telafici and other members of the antivirus industry interviewed for this article voiced skepticism of the claims of the Mobile Antivirus Research Association because of alleged past associations of several of its members with virus writers.

The distrust stems from a series of articles that Peikari and two other members wrote in September 2004 on the first PocketPC virus, known as CE.Dust, and dubbed WinCE.Duts.A by antivirus firms. One section of the article had apparently been written by the virus's author, Ratter of the virus exchange group 29A, and the article included the complete source code for the virus.

"Overall, we don't really want to be involved with this organization, because of their code of conduct and some of their ties with virus writers," F-Secure's Hyppönen said.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at rival antivirus firm Sophos, also mentioned the articles as a reason for questioning the group's conduct. It's also strange that the group has the only copy of this virus, as most virus writers who create such code want to send it to every antivirus company to maximize the publicity, he said.

"If you thought you did something clever, you would send it to all the antivirus companies rather than a single group that no one had heard of before," he said.

Cluley questioned the group's refusal to release the virus code to established antivirus firms, saying that the conduct could leave people vulnerable.

"Right now, none of us can protect against this virus because we haven't seen the code," Cluley said. "At the moment, it is really hard for us to ascertain whether this is a serious threat or a curiosity because it has not been shared with any antivirus company."

Peikari argued that many antivirus companies are just not used to playing ball on someone else's field. The companies are free to propose other terms for the membership agreement, he said and added that, in the end, the group does not need to be part of the wider antivirus industry.

"We do not need greater acceptance," Peikari said. "We are strictly involved with mobile security. It's a rather small field, and very unrelated to traditional antivirus."

Antivirus firm Symantec was not able to immediately comment on the issue. (Symantec is the parent company of SecurityFocus.)


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